BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY
Special to the Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Barnett Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
JASMINE AND ARSENIO MCCANTS
Married: March 16, 2020
Met: Summer 2005, at Sixth Street Peace Baptist Church in Birmingham. Arsenio, then 17, had been a lifelong member when Jasmine, then 15, and family started attending as her father, Pastor Geroid Caldwell, began pastoring there.
“[Arsenio] was in a relationship with somebody else at the time so we were just friends, but we hung out outside of church a couple of times before we started dating,” Jasmine recalled. “He was very nice and was always so passionate… if I was sick or anything he always reached out to check on me.”
“…and one day after Sunday school I decided to text her. I said, ‘do you like me?’, and she didn’t reply, she looked up and smiled at me and I said yeah, ‘she like me,’” Arsenio laughed.
“It felt real elementary like he sent me a note saying ‘do you like me, check yes or no,’” Jasmine laughed. “At the time I was thinking, ‘do I want to mess up our friendship and start a love thing?’ I didn’t say anything right away, we just kept talking on a friend level, but he kept trying to pursue me…”
Arsenio said, “…I started sending more than one message and [placing] more than one call a day so that she could see I was interested in more than a friendship,”
First date: Jasmine and Arsenio became exclusive and went on their first official date as a couple the following on August 1. They went to Chili’s on Lakeshore Parkway for dinner, and to the Rave Movie Theater at Patton Creek to see a horror film called ‘Mirrors’.
“He was trying to be romantic, but it wasn’t really working,” Jasmine laughed. “He was trying to be nice and open doors, and pulling out my chair at the restaurant… you could tell he didn’t want to say the wrong thing and it was funny because I had never seen him in that way before. I think we were both holding back on that first date and acting shy even though we had known each other as friends for years,” she said.
“I was nervous,” Arsenio admitted, “I saw that we were actually going from a friendship into a relationship, and I knew that we couldn’t really go back into that friendship mode because it would never be the same, so I really wanted it to work. The friendship actually elevated our relationship,” he said.
The turn: For Jasmine, things began to heat up a few weeks later after her birthday [August 22].
“He laid out everything for me, he bought me flowers, and a big giant teddy bear because I love stuffed animals and we went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse in Pelham. I felt special and loved [because of] the way he was treating me during those first few weeks between our first date and my birthday; it felt different,” Jasmine said.
“Once I did everything for her birthday and I saw how much she appreciated it, and how much she cared for me that’s when I knew she was the one I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. I saw how she cared for me as a friend during my sicknesses, she would always check on me, or come up to the hospital and see me. …her caring thoughts were big for me,” Arsenio said. “She showed me she wasn’t [materialistic], and it was about my love and compassion towards her that mattered.”
Jasmine and Arsenio admit that there were trying times. With meeting and dating so young, they separated but reconnected in July 2017, after Arsenio’s move to Montgomery from Birmingham for work. One Sunday after seeing Jasmine at church while in town visiting, Arsenio called Jasmine and asked to get back together. “And I said, ‘if we get back together, we’re not breaking up because we’re getting too old for this,’ Jasmine remembered, “and we started going on dates again and this time put God at the center of our relationship. We were more mature, we had grown and experienced other things to make us realize we were right for each other.”
The proposal: March 23, 2019, at Railroad Park in Birmingham. Arsenio had set up a day of activities for the two of them that concluded with a walk around Railroad Park.
“Earlier that day we got a couples massage, then we went to Texas Roadhouse for lunch, and were supposed to head straight to the park but Jasmine wanted to [take a detour] but I knew we had to get there because we had family and friends there waiting for us for the surprise,” Arsenio said. “So [I convinced her to go straight to the park]. I sent the text message to the family and told them to head to the pond, and once I saw they were behind us, I turned around in front of Jasmine and got down on one knee and asked her if would she marry me. Once the family saw me on one knee, and with the ring out, some of them started running up to us and screaming, and she turned around and saw everyone and the balloons and she was in shock,” Arsenio remembered.
“I kinda had a feeling that we were getting close to the point, so I knew it was coming. But I remember seeing my parents, his family, and our closest friends running out and screaming ‘it’s about time’… I was excited, I felt like we were finally getting things right and building that foundation for us to spend the rest of our lives together,” Jasmine said.
The wedding: The couple had planned for a wedding to take place at the Bessemer Civic Center on May 16, 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed their plans. “Our wedding colors were supposed to be champagne and sage, but we had to cancel the wedding and get married at the courthouse before they shut it down. We went on the last day before shut down on March 16, 2020, and got married,” Jasmine said.
Most memorable for the bride was “leaving work and running down to the courthouse, trying to find parking, and get it done because they weren’t staying open until five that day,” Jasmine said. “COVID canceling our wedding turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I didn’t have to deal with the people in our wedding,” she laughed. “It’s a handful trying to plan a wedding with so many different personalities…”
Most memorable for the groom was “walking out the courthouse and saying, ‘I have a wife, the pandemic didn’t stop us!’,” Arsenio said.
Honeymoon: “The honeymoon was canceled too, everything was canceled” because of COVID, Jasmine said.
Words of wisdom: “Keep everything centered around God, and communication is huge, you won’t get anywhere without it. Not every day is a walk in the park, but it shouldn’t make you think ‘oh, this is the time I need to leave my spouse’. You’re going to go through those trying times to get to those happy times in your life and marriage. Make sure you make time for yourselves without the children and work on yourselves as a couple,” Jasmine said.
“Don’t go to sleep mad at your spouse, make sure you don’t leave the house upset, tell each other you love each other every day, and keep God first,” Arsenio said.
Happily ever after: The McCants are members of Sixth Street Peace Baptist Church in Birmingham, and have one son, Arsenio Jr., 21 months.
Jasmine, 32, is an Ensley native, a Holy Family High School grad, and attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB], where she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, with a concentration in criminal science, and a minor in psychology. She is currently in pursuit of her master’s degree in health care administration at Walden University [online] and works in the pediatric department of numerology at UAB Hospital.
Arsenio, 34, is a Wenonah native, a Wenonah High School grad and attended Alabama State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and is currently in pursuit of his master’s degree in physical education, with a minor in counseling from The University of West Alabama [online]. He works at Sun Valley Elementary as a physical education teacher.